Porgy and Bess Tickets
Porgy and Bess is an opera with music by George Gershwin, libretto by DuBose
Heyward, and lyrics by Ira Gershwin and Heyward. The first version of the opera was performed at Carnegie Hall in 1935.
It was based on Heyward's novel Porgy and the play of the same name that he co-wrote with his wife Dorothy. All three works deal with African American life in the fictitious Catfish Row in Charleston, South Carolina in the early 1930s. The opera is admired for Gershwin's innovative synthesis of European orchestral techniques with American jazz and folk music idioms. Order your Porgy and Bess Tickets online today!
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Porgy and Bess was originally conceived by Gershwin as an "American folk opera". The work was first performed in the fall of 1935, but was not widely accepted in the United States as a legitimate opera until the late 1970s and '80s. Porgy and Bess is now considered part of the standard operatic repertoire and is regularly performed internationally. Despite this success, the opera has been controversial; some from the outset have considered it racist.
"Summertime" is by far the best-known piece from the work, and countless interpretations of this and other individual numbers have also been recorded and performed. Porgy and Bess tells the story of Porgy, a crippled black man living in the slums of Charleston, South Carolina, and his attempts to rescue Bess from the clutches of Crown, her pimp, and Sportin' Life, the drug dealer.
Porgy and Bess begins with a short introduction which segues into an evening in Catfish Row. Jasbo Brown entertains the community with his piano playing. Clara sings a lullaby to her baby ("Summertime") as the working men prepare for a game of craps. Clara's husband, Jake, tries his own lullaby ("A Woman is a Sometime Thing") with little effect. Porgy, a cripple and a beggar, enters on his goat cart to organize the game. Crown, a lowlife, and his woman Bess enter, and the game begins. Sportin' Life, the local supplier of "happy dust" (cocaine) and bootleg alcohol, also joins in. One by one, the players get crapped out, leaving only Robbins and Crown, who have become extremely drunk. When Robbins wins, Crown starts a fight, and eventually kills Robbins. Crown runs, telling Bess to fend for herself. The door is shut on her by most of the residents, except Porgy, who shelters her.
The mourners sing a spiritual to Robbins ("Gone, Gone, Gone"). To raise money for his burial, a saucer is placed on his chest for the mourners' donations ("Overflow"). A white detective enters, in a speaking voice telling Serena (Robbins' wife) that she must bury her husband soon, or his body will be given to medical students. He arrests Peter (a bystander), whom he will force to testify against Crown. Serena laments her loss in "My man's gone now." The undertaker enters, and agrees to bury Robbins as long as Serena promises to pay him back. Bess and the chorus finish the act with "Leavin' for the Promise' Lan'".
Jake and the other fishermen prepare for work ("It take a long pull to get there"). Clara asks Jake not to go, and to come to a picnic, but he tells her that they desperately need the money. This causes Porgy to sing from his window about his outlook on life ("I got plenty o' nuttin'"). Sportin' Life waltzes around, selling cocaine, but soon incurs the wrath of Maria ("I hates yo' struttin' style"). A fraudulent lawyer, Frazier, arrives and farcically divorces Bess from Crown. Archdale, a white lawman, enters and informs Porgy that Peter will soon be released. The bad omen of a buzzard flies over Catfish Row, causing Porgy to sing "Buzzard keep on flyin' over". As the rest of Catfish Row prepares for the picnic, Sportin' Life asks Bess to start a new life with him in New York; she refuses. Bess and Porgy are now left alone, and express their love for each other ("Bess, you is my woman now"). The chorus re-enters in high spirits as they prepare to leave for the picnic ("Oh, I can't sit down"). Bess leaves Porgy behind as they go off to the picnic. Porgy reprises "I got plenty o' nuttin'" in high spirits.
The chorus enjoys themselves at the picnic ("I ain't got no shame doin' what I like to do!"). Sportin' Life presents the chorus his cynical views on the Bible ("It ain't necessarily so"), causing Serena to chastise them ("Shame on all you sinners!"). Crown enters to talk to Bess, and he reminds her that Porgy is 'temporary'. Bess wants to leave Crown forever ("Oh, what you want wid Bess?") but Crown makes her follow him into hiding in the woods.
Jake leaves to go fishing with his crew, and Peter returns from prison. Bess is lying in Porgy's room, delirious. Serena prays to remove Bess's affliction ("Oh, doctor Jesus"). The Strawberry Woman and the Crab Man sing their calls on the street, and Bess soon recovers from her fever. Bess talks with Porgy about her sins ("I wants to stay here") before exclaiming "I loves you, Porgy". Porgy promises to protect her from Crown. The scene ends with the hurricane bell signaling an approaching storm.
The residents of Catfish Row drown out the sound of the storm with prayer. A knock is heard at the door, and the chorus believes it to be Death ("Oh there's somebody knocking at the door"). Crown enters dramatically, seeking Bess. The chorus tries praying to make Crown leave, causing him to goad them with the un-Christian "A red-headed woman make a choo-choo jump its track". Clara sees Jake's boat turn over in the river, and she runs out to try and save him. Crown says that Porgy is not a real man, as he cannot go out to rescue her from the storm. Crown goes himself, and the chorus finish their prayer. Clara dies in the storm, and Bess will now care for her baby.
The chorus mourns Clara and Jake ("Clara, don't you be downhearted"). Crown enters to claim Bess, and a fight ensues, which ends with Porgy killing Crown. Porgy exclaims to Bess "You've got a man now. You've got Porgy!". A detective enters and talks with Serena and Maria about the murders of Crown and Robbins. They deny knowledge of Crown's murder, causing the detective to question an apprehensive Porgy. He asks Porgy to come and identify Crown's body. Sportin' Life tells Porgy that corpses bleed in the presence of their murderers, and the detective will use this to hang Porgy. Porgy refuses to identify the body, and is arrested for contempt of court. Sportin' Life forces Bess to take cocaine, and then tells her that Porgy will be locked up for a long time. He tells her that she should start a new life with him in New York with the dazzling "There's a boat dat's leavin' soon for New York". She shuts the door on his face, but he knows that doubt at Porgy's return will make her follow him.
Porgy returns to Catfish Row richer, after playing craps on the street with his loaded dice. He gives gifts to the residents, and does not understand why they all seem so downhearted. He sees Clara's baby is now with Serena and madly asks where Bess is. Maria and Serena tell him that Bess has run off with Sportin' Life to New York in the trio "Bess is gone." Porgy calls for his goat cart, and leaves for New York to find Bess in the closing song "Oh Lawd, I'm on my way".